How Long Does it Take to Diagnose ADHD?


How long should it take to get an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) diagnosis? And if an adult or a child receives a quick diagnosis for ADD, when would you be suspicious of the doctor?


ADDitude Answers

If a doctor or psychiatrist talks with a child or adult for 15 minutes, diagnoses attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD)and reaches for the prescription pad to prescribe medications, alarm bells should go off. I typically spend a couple of hours with my patients in the initial interview. I ask a lot of questions and listen carefully to the answers. I get a detailed history, but I do it in a semi-structured way. What’s more, it’s not just a matter of looking for ADD/ADHD. It’s important to screen for comorbid problems with ADD/ADHD — because the rate of comorbidities and ADD/ADHD is quite high. The problem with the health system is that insurance companies reimburse pediatricians for only 15 minutes of their time.

More Info on Diagnosing ADD/ADHD

Posted by Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D.
Author of A New Understanding of ADHD in Children and Adults

ADDitude Answers

Here’s a great resource guide on getting an ADHD diagnosis: The ADHD Diagnosis Guide.

I agree that you might want a second opinion (take the online self-test to see if that’s a good path to pursue: Are You Living with Adult ADHD? or Could Your Child Have ADHD?). offers a great resource guide for just after diagnosis, called “The First 100 Days.”

Posted by Penny Williams
ADDconnect Moderator, Author on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

A Reader Answers

Ask for a second opinion. You are entitled to that. There are some similarities between ADHD and other conditions, so more evaluations might be needed to tell them apart. A proper diagnosis can take a long time; this is the brain we’re talking about, they are all unique, and doctors are just beginning to realize how much they know and how much more they don’t know. Keep at it!

Posted by CombatTVgirl

A Reader Answers

After over a decade of seeing doctors and being treated for different primary diagnoses, a psychiatrist told me I had ADHD. I did a trial of ADHD medication, and for the first time in my history of treatment, I noticed a profound improvement in, not only symptoms, but my overall mindset and clarity.

But immediately preceding this, I had been misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder. It didn’t seem to fit, although I learned that the symptoms of bipolar and ADHD are very similar, and difficult to distinguish. It didn’t seem to target my main day-to-day struggles.

A diagnosis can be difficult, and it may take some time. Many conditions have symptoms similar to ADHD. Doing a trial of certain medication can reveal to doctors what could really be going on.

It was only after nothing seemed to work medication-wise for the bipolar disorder, and regular visits to a talk-therapist that I had a comprehensive psychological evaluation done. This includes lots of tests, executive function exams, and maybe different things depending on the clinic. It was then that the psychologist figured out I had ADHD.

The medication I am now on for ADHD controls the symptoms I had that were labeled bipolar.

Posted by BritJ

A Reader Answers

We went to a child neuropsychologist. She was incredibly in-depth about ALL of my son’s issues. She even put together a packet that described the issues, (discovered from a day of MANY types of testing), to what to do about the results. It’s kind of like a handbook on how to address each problem.

It was incredibly expensive to do the testing, but I would still reccommend it. We aren’t able to use the neuropsychologist as my son’s therapist due to the distance from her office but she told us to take the packet to whomever we decided on using as insight for the next professional. Bottom line, try a neuropsychologist.

Posted by Momof6

A Reader Answers

What sort of specialist you see depends on where you are, but it should be a psychologist or psychiatrist who’s trained and qualified to diagnose ADHD. Ask what process/tests they use to diagnose before the appointment (e.g., Connors, WAIS or WISC etc. - look them up). Ordinary MDs can look at symptoms and prescribe medidcation, which may be better than nothing if it is all you can afford, but it helps to know more than that.

Reading everything you are capable of understanding about ADHD is a good start, whether you have it or not. It’ll help with self understanding and self-esteem, and also in choosing a diagnostician, psychologist, and and asserting your legal rights. I have ADHD plus a couple of learning disabilities and got two law degrees from top law schools and have had a 30 year legal career - knowing what you’re dealing with helps a lot, but I would not change my brain for anything.

Good luck

Posted by Cedar

This question was asked on the ADDConnect forums. Read the original discussion here.

Dr. Brown, is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, and Associate Director of the Yale Clinic for Attention and Related Disorders. Dr. Brown was awarded by the National Attention Deficit Disorder Association and has been inducted into the CHADD Hall of Fame for his contributions to research and professional education about ADHD.

He is author of the books: A New Understanding of ADHD in Children and Adults, Smart but Stuck: Emotions in Teens and Adults with ADHD, and Attention Deficit Disorder: The Unfocused Mind in Children and Adults.

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